In the elementary years, Waldorf makes lively use of a time-honored practice: teaching children through stories that recount the deeds of heroes, the qualities of animals, the history of a people, cultural wisdom and spiritual truths. Stories also promote solid learning in every academic subject from the alphabet and basic arithmetic through zoology and Greek history.
First grade is the commencement of formal schooling marked by children's new interest in learning. Students establish good habits of classroom life and work that will form the basis for all subsequent learning at school. The students and teacher build the foundation for an ever-deepening relationship while forming a socially cohesive group during this special year of beginnings.
In the opening assembly of the year, each first grader is welcomed by an upper class student - sometimes a big brother or sister - who presents them with a rose and ushers them across the Rainbow Bridge. Waiting on the other side of the bridge with a warm hug and an enriching story is the Grade One Class Teacher.
Traditions - seasonal celebrations, festivals and school performances - play a major role in Waldorf education. They help build bonds between students, give students an opportunity to look to the future, and connect the whole school community. They build a memory of the school experience, just as we all mark our lives in terms of significant moments and rites of passage.
Lines & Curves
After greeting each student at the door with a warm handshake, the First Grade Teacher introduces the class to the basic building blocks of language, math, visual arts and music: the straight line and the curve. Slowly and carefully drawing these figures in chalk, the teacher imparts a significance to the lesson that many Waldorf students can recount years later.
Learning to read at Waldorf is fun. Students learn to recognize and write letters using various media - writing them, forming them in flexible material, and manipulating sculpted letters into words. They are internalizing one of the essentials of reading through a vivid interactive experience.
Over and over at Waldorf, you will find the use of rich, warm sensory materials. As students progress through the grades, they will sculpt with beeswax and clay, carve wood, stain glass, and create copper metal reliefs. These projects are connected to and enliven their academic studies.
The children begin each morning in a 90-minute Main Lesson with their class teacher. During this time, when their minds are freshest, they intensively study one of the core academic subjects: language arts, mathematics, history, or science. Subjects requiring regular repetition in shorter lessons (foreign languages, for example) occupy the later part of the morning.
Literature: Fairy tales, folk tales and nature stories help to cultivate imagination and awareness of the environment. Teachers utilize language that is clear and rich in expressive vocabulary, including poems with strong rhythms.
English and Grammar: Writing and reading evolve out of the oral tradition. Letters are introduced pictorially through stories, and then letters evolve into words and sentences. Writing evolves from drawing. Capital letters, simple words, speech exercises, short plays, and phonetics are all part of the first grade curriculum. A class play may be performed during this year.
Science: Stories from nature help children build awareness of and sensitivity to their surroundings.
Mathematics: Whole numbers to 100 are introduced. Elements of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are explored through imaginative stories and tactile experiences. Counting, rhythms, mental arithmetic, Roman numerals, and number riddles help to reinforce arithmetic skills.
Drawing, Painting, and Modeling: Children are introduced to a variety of artistic materials including beeswax, crayons, and watercolor paints. Through painting, students learn about the qualities of color, and through drawing, they learn about the qualities of form. Beeswax is modeled to create small figures and scenes from fairy tales. All work is imbued with color and beauty.
Class Teacher: Tim Smith
Tim Smith was born in Kentucky (in the Daniel Boone National Forest) and raised in rural Illinois and Iowa. He attended Goshen College in Indiana as a religion major for two years, and went on to receive his BA in Humanities from Thomas Edison State College. Tim earned his Waldorf teacher training certificate at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. Tim has lived in Venezuela, Germany, and Switzerland, and spent three years working as a caregiver in a Camphill community for disabled children in eastern Pennsylvania. Over his 14 years at WSA, Tim started as an intern and moved on to teach various subjects including music, Spanish, and practical arts. He has been a class teacher for 11 years and has been with his current class since first grade. Tim started the basketball program at WSA, and coached for several years. Tim and his wife MJ, also a Waldorf educator, have three children; their two daughters graduated from WSA and their son is a current WSA student. Tim has a love of music, and plays the guitar and sings. He also enjoys carpentry.